10 Tips to avoid breaking your neck or your budget on a moped

On my second day cruising around the stunning interior of the Greek island of Naxos on a moped, I got a little cocky. My wife and I had never rented mopeds before and the caution I exercised on my first day out gradually disintegrated until I was leaning into hairpin turns and passing old jalopies with impunity.

My wife was seated behind me, arms wrapped around my waist. The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the dazzling blue sky. An invigorating breeze embraced us and the view of the Aegean in the distance made us feel indestructible. And then we crashed.

Easy on the curves, tiger.

I guess we’d taken a curve a bit too fast, or had leaned in a bit too much. I flew off the moped, landing awkwardly on my right leg, and Jen, my wife, sort of toppled onto me. My leg hurt and the impact of the collision blew a whole through my sweater and jacket. But we were OK. The moped, however, was another matter. It had a cracked mirror and wouldn’t start.

Don’t ride two to a moped. It’s safer and if your significant other crashes, they won’t be able to blame you.

We coasted downhill to the nearest village and argued over who should use the phone in the village’s only taverna to call the guy who’d rented us the moped.

“You crashed us, you deal with him,” Jen said.

I made a lame, disregarded assertion that that the bike was to blame but grudgingly agreed to make the call.

When the rental agent shows you how to drive the moped, listen!The Greek Moped Guy (GMG) said he wasn’t surprised that we’d crashed.

“You weren’t listening when I was trying to show you how to drive it,” he said.

And he was right. I wasn’t listening. Whenever we’re getting directions or instructions of any kind, I will nod as though I’m paying attention, but I tend to tune out and assume my wife will absorb the most important bits of what we’re being told.

“You got that, right?” I’ll say to her.

And in fairness, she had been telling me to slow down. But what self-respecting husband listens to driving instructions from their wife? Certainly, not me.

Don’t expect feel-good, American style customer service in other countries.

“I watched you when you left my place,” the GMG continued. “I could tell you didn’t know how to drive. I never should have rented you the moped to begin with.”

He was probably right but this kind of candor is unheard of in the U.S., where, even if you are a complete bonehead, you’re normally treated cordially. The GMG didn’t ask if we were OK. but he wanted to know what was wrong with the bike.

Take a few photos of the moped before you leave with it, especially if it’s already pretty banged up.

“Oh, it’s not too bad,” I said, lying through my teeth. “Probably just something very minor.”

This was wishful thinking on my part. He had our credit card and the bike was already a banged up, old mess when we got it. Was he going to use this opportunity to retire this one from the fleet and charge me for the price of a whole new moped?

Get the details on roadside assistance.

The GMG told us that he’d pick us up but warned that it would take a few hours and would cost 1 euro per kilometer. Not a bad deal, in retrospect, as we were only about 15 kilometers from town, but I thought we might be able to coast back into town for free. Luckily, my wife was having none of this idea.

“We are NOT going to coast for 15 kilometers,” she said, as I kept the GMG on hold.

“Fine,” I said, handing her the phone. “You talk to him.”

It was a good deal but after absorbing his insults I was done with him.

Wait till after you crash, rendering your bike inoperable, to hit the bar.

We sat outside in the sun and drank a few bottles of Mythos, a Greek beer, while I tried to dress the wounds on my leg with a little help from the waiter.

Never let them see you sweat. (Or limp near the scene of an accident.)

When the GMG arrived in a big pick-up truck a couple hours later, I got up from my seat and immediately felt a sharp pain in my right leg. But as we walked toward him I concealed my grimace and used all of my strength to avoid limping. I was trying to downplay the severity of the incident and didn’t want him to see that I was hurt.

He surveyed the damage to the bike, shook his head dismissively and said to me, “You’re a very bad driver.”

Be careful what credit card you give them.

We drove back to town in silence as the splendor of this magical Cycladic island unfolded outside the pickup truck’s dirty windows. When we returned to his office, I braced myself for an astronomical bill and fretted about the large credit limit on our Visa card. But he wasn’t about to immediately kill the suspense.

“I need to get the bike repaired, come back at the end of the day and I’ll give you the bill,” he said.

Consider walking instead.

We briefly considered renting a moped from another company before eventually electing to walk to the beach we wanted to visit. But my leg was killing me and by the end of the day, I could barely walk. I didn’t want to hobble back to his office so I briefly considered sending Jen back in to see him, before realizing that she would make a very poor Greek moped-guy-emissary. She’s way too nice.

So I hobbled back into the GMG’s office and braced myself as he pulled out his calculator. It was one of those big ones that have scientific notation features — not a good sign. I was expecting him to ask for our first-born child or perhaps a kidney, but was delighted when he handed me a bill for just 45 euros — 15 for the broken mirror and 30 for the tow into town.

Still, I didn’t act too grateful for fear that he would change his mind or begin a new lecture focusing on the shortcomings of my moped driving skills. I just limped out of the shop, wallet and pride still marginally intact.

Photo by Bennorz and Graeme Newcomb on Flickr.